CATHOLIC BOOT CAMP 2: The Problem of Low Expectations

As I mentioned in the first post, we all know that many, many people have abandoned the Catholic Church and have begun attending services at Protestant churches or are not attending church at all. At the heart of the reason people leave the Church is the fact that they obviously do not believe that they will miss anything important to their lives by leaving the Church. In particular, the sacramental life of the Church does not hold enough attraction for them to remain Catholic.

The reality is that many, if not most Catholics, participate in the sacraments of the Church with a very passive disposition, with low understanding and low expectations. Our priests and deacons believe that distributing the sacraments is their primary responsibility. The problem is that very little attention is given to the disposition of those who present themselves for reception of our sacraments.

As stated by Sherry Weddell in Forming Intentional Disciples, “The grace we receive is directly related to the personal faith, spiritual expectancy, and hunger with which we approach the sacrament.” She cites Catechism section 2111. The teaching of the Church is that, for adults, a sacrament is valid but produces no fruit or grace when the one receiving the sacrament lacks sufficient faith and a positive, expectant disposition.

A phrase in the Bible that almost haunts me is found in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Early in the encounter, Jesus says to the woman: “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Do we all know “the gift of God” to which Jesus refers? Do we really know in a deep, personal way the love of God, the depth of His mercy, His grace and His truth? Do we trust Him to the point that we are willing to completely surrender our lives to Him?

Saint Paul often has a passage in each of his letters which describes the full potential of the Christian life. One of my favorites is Ephesians 1:16-23, which reads as follows:

Therefore, I, too, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, do not cease giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens…and he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

I encourage every reader of this post to read the above passage slowly. As we read it, we should ask ourselves: “Am I receiving a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of God? Have I experienced the riches of glory and the surpassing greatness of power referred to by St. Paul? Do I expect or want this experience? Do I think of the Church as making available to me the fullness of Christ, His divine presence, power and love?

The fundamental goal of this Catholic Boot Camp is not to just pass on more information about the Catholic faith. It is to help us understand, believe and incorporate into our lives the wisdom, revelation, knowledge and surpassing power of the experience of God available to us in the Catholic Church.